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Monday, February 18, 2013

My 4 days off the grid

Last week, as I mentioned in a blog I took a few days and completely went off the grid. No internet. No social media. No TV. No movies. No songs. No music. No news. Nothing. Just me and my story, 24/7. I was going to "Story World"

My 4 days off the grid.

What did I learn?

I learned a lot of things. But most importantly...I need to pick my projects better. Just because it sounds like a great project, doesn't mean it is the right project for me. I will tell you at the end of the blog why I came to that conclusion. But first, here are some other things I learned that led me there.

I thought I wasn't focusing. That wasn't it. 

I buckled down. I focused. I excluded all other projects and distractions. That didn't help. It just showed me that I was more avoiding the truth I came to at the end than not focusing. Focus only showed me that I was on the wrong path, not that I was all over the place. I did have a path. Just the wrong one.

I thought I didn't live in the story and because of that, wasn't giving it my all. That wasn't it.

I was trying to live in the story. And I did. I found out I didn't like my story, although it was pretty good. I didn't relate to it or most of its characters. I wasn't terribly interested in the story. I figured out later why that was. Even when I began to live in the story there was still a hole in my process that I needed to sort out.

I thought that I just had too much material and if I put it all together and streamlined it, organized it and edited it that it would come together.

 It did, sort of, but even still it was no good. It is and was a good story. Just not good enough. Technically, it is very sound and the premise is good. It has all the elements you need....but one. It isn't the material that is the problem. That might have been a problem, but I solved it once I put it all together. And yet, the story still was not what I wanted. The reader would not connect with it. I didn't connect with it. Why should they?
Then I thought to myself, why isn't this coming together? 

Certainly, my concept is good. Very good. I have already gotten feedback from other sources that tell me it is. My characters are pretty good and my plot development is good. Certainly good enough.
But I just could not connect with my characters. So everything I came up with, everything I wrote just seemed to be hopelessly shallow and meaningless. Just words. No life. No emotion. Lots of steak but no sizzle. Since I am the voice that speaks the words for the characters, if I cannot truly connect with them, then there is a disconnect.

And that was mostly because the two main characters are women.
It is just tough for me to write from the perspective of anyone but myself. I am not an actor and not a woman, so I can view women, listen to them, but I can never really understand them and where that emotion comes from. Even as men go, I am not a very emotional person. I am logical, level headed and even tempered. That works great for me in real life. It works against me as a creative writer.
If I tried to write like I was a woman, it would be obvious that I am just mailing it in and the viewer/reader will realize that. And I know it.

 One of my favorite shows of all time is The Wonder Years. It is one of the few shows that brings out emotion in me. I really feel like the characters are real. So, I ask myself how this was achieved? 

Why could they do it while I can't presently? How do they get to me?

The answer I came to was this: They are a writing team. Husband and Wife. They have both perspectives. Both male and female. I could never do that on my own. It just isn't possible to truly be something I am not. 

So, I will do what I can with it, and then seek out help. 
One of the things I am good at is writing erotic fantasy. I do it well. And I know why.
In any fantasy I have, I am always one of the characters. The situations may not be real, but one of the characters always is. The key is to transfer this skill. In some way,  I need to be one of the characters within the story, even if it is purely fictional, so that it all seems real to me. Like it actually happened. That is not easy to do, but it is essential. I figured that out as I went along.
I also watch Woody Allen a lot. While he claims that he is not the characters he writes about, I think a big part of him is when he creates really well. It just comes natural that way.
 In the pieces I have written quickly, that most have really liked, I just became one character and then wrote about that experience. The emotion was easily there. I cannot fake it. I just don't have that in me. I have to become one of the characters. Most of my stories do reflect that on some level, but this particular project did not. So, now that I know where that stumbling block is, I will seek out ways to work with it. For me, that has always been music. That is where I can relate to the emotion. I can work with that. Straight poetry really does not effect me at all. But if you put those words to music and add a passionate singer and some orchestration I can relate to it. So, I will use music to further my cause.
Instead of finding places to stimulate my mind and creativity, I need to find places to stimulate my emotions so I can relate to the emotions of my characters. I need to continue to always find creative ways to do that.

But, the greatest thing I learned is this: 

In the future I will stick with main characters who are men, and I have to be able to put myself in that character and react based on how I think the character would react. That is what I learned. I need to focus on projects that I know work within the skill set that I have. Otherwise, I am working against myself not for myself.
Maybe other men can write a female leading character well. I am not one of those. I know that now. It is neither good nor bad. It is just a fact.

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